By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Katee Sackhoff has played her share of tough characters over the years, most notably hotshot pilot Starbuck on the critically acclaimed Syfy series “Battlestar Galactica,” which aired for four-and-a-half years. She currently plays tough-as-nails Deputy Vic Moretti on A&E’s original drama series “Longmire.” The blond badass now appears on the big screen as Dahl, the lead female in the nearly all-male cast of “Riddick.” She’s a no-nonsense arms expert who can hold her own against Vin Diesel and the others.
The blond, green-eyed actress plays the second-in-command to Boss Johns (Matt Nable), who has arrived on a distant planet in hopes of tracking down and exacting revenge against dangerous escapee Riddick (Diesel, reprising the antihero role he previously played in “Pitch Black” and “The Chronicles of Riddick.”) She and her crew vie with a ruthless bounty hunter (Jordi Molla) and his guys to find the outlaw first, but they face obstacles on the hostile planet, including man-eating giant scorpion-like creatures and a nasty storm that could wipe them all out. Their biggest obstacle is the wily Riddick himself, who has an uncanny ability to stay one step ahead of his pursuers. Riddick is both attracted to and cautious around this deadly gun-wielding beauty.
In person, Sackhoff is rather girly and more petite (5-foot-5-inches tall) than she appears to be onscreen. Her hotel suite is lined with an army of high-heeled shoes. She is wearing a very feminine white dress, accented with a black leather bodice by designer Yigal Azrouel.
“This dress was stunning when I saw it,” she says with a titter. “I like the leather.”
Engaged to film producer Scott Niemeyer, Sackhoff also is wearing a huge diamond ring on her left hand that likely has saddened legions of her male fans. No wedding date has been set, though, because both Sackhoff and her fiancé have a lot of work ahead before they can walk down the aisle. The Portland, Ore.-born actress not only has the TV series to consider, she is hoping to reprise her sexually ambiguous Dahl character in future “Riddick” installments.
Q: Dahl is a fun character. You added some flourishes to the character?
Sackhoff: Vin makes a fantastic producer because he’s an actor. He knows very well if you give an actor ownership (of their character) they take pride and they work harder. He said from Day 1, you do the back story and figure out who this character is and bring her to set. If you do the work, you’re going to be right. That makes your imagination start to go crazy, because all of a sudden you’re like “Who is she?” “Where was she five years ago or 10 years ago?” One of the things that (co-star) Matt Nable and I decided was that these two characters have been together about six years on a team, and he’s kind of a father-figure to her or a big brother figure to her, and he probably knows more about her than many people. She makes a fantastic No. 2, which means she’s a very good soldier. So you just start to learn things. You make one decision and it just spirals down.
Q: You came up with the idea that she’s a sharpshooter, right?
Sackhoff: It was in the script that she shot the gun once or twice. So I came up with the idea that that’s who she is. This is who she is professionally. She’s a better shot than anybody else on the ship. You then start to make decisions like in the scene where we go out with the electrical guns. I felt that she would be able to handle two (guns). She’s a weapons expert so she can handle any gun you throw at her. That’s kind of who I decided she was. Things happen and then you’re married to the gun. But then it turned out the gun was heavy and I was thinking to myself, “How am I going to lug this around?” I forgot I was a girl. (She laughs.)
Q: Did you name your gun?
Sackhoff: No. I should have. Everybody names their gun. So I didn’t give my gun a name other than Heavy son of a *****.
Q: Did you already have a lot of weapons training?
Sackhoff: Yeah, I’ve had a lot of weapons training. I’ve shot sniper rifles before but not this big. This was a very very big sniper rifle and it also had a silenced extension on the end of it. It was a very big gun. It had more power in a single bullet than I’d ever seen before. But I’ve also shot the SAW (squad automatic weapon), which is a massive gun that hooks onto your body. So I’ve done some crazy shooting, yeah.
Q: When you started acting, did you ever imagine you’d be playing these characters that are these dynamic, strong women?
Sackhoff: No. I wanted to. I started acting when I was 16. And then I got the script for “Battlestar Galactica.” Every role I played up until then was always the very stereotypical blond girl. The series right before “Battlestar,” was “The Education of Max Bickford,” with Richard Dreyfuss. I played his angry daughter. So when I read the script for “Battlestar Galactica,” I just got so excited and then I fought for it. I must have gone in six or seven times, because they were like “No! Absolutely not! You’re too young. You’re too girly. It’s never going to happen.” But I just kept going back, just begging from them to see me again. Ultimately, the (then) wife of writer David Eick saw my audition and told him “That’s Starbuck.” He went “alright,” and they hired me.
Q: Did that set the tone for you?
Sackhoff: For sure.
Q: And you’re not worried about being stereotyped?
Sackhoff: No. I don’t worry about it. This is a job and as long as it’s fun then it’s a perfect job for me. My goal is to have longevity. As a woman, you can’t hope for anything more. You can dream big because, ultimately, anything is possible. But you also have to be realistic about the limitations that are placed upon women in society, and age in society. So, keeping that in the back of my mind, as a healthy knowledge, you wake up in the morning and just feel blessed that you’re able to do it. I would love to play other roles, of course I would, but I’m also having fun. I’ve already been doing this for more than half my life. That’s a pretty long career so as long as I can continue to turn each job into another job, then I’ll be happy. I can wish for more and hope for more and take matters into my own hands and produce things and have people see me in a different light but I’m never going to fight with what the audience and what the fan base wants to see me do, because they’re the ones that have given me my jobs. So as long as they want to see me do action and science fiction, I’ll do it.
Q: There are worse things to be known for.
Sackhoff: There’s porn. (She laughs.)
Q: How did filming this work out with your schedule on “Longmire?”
Sackhoff: We shoot four and a half or five months. “Riddick” kept getting pushed back. I started to get really worried. I called my manager more than a few times and said, “This may not work.” If they (start production on “Riddick”) after February, I’m screwed. Obviously, my first position is to the TV show. Thankfully, they went early enough and thankfully, D.T. (writer-director David Twohy) and Vin allowed them to shoot me out so I didn’t have to be there for the last two weeks (of filming). I wrapped in Montreal (on “Riddick”) and started on “Longmire” in Santa Fe (N.M.) two days later.
Q: Are you still in production on the second season?
Sackhoff: We’re done. We finished shooting three weeks ago. We will be done, if we get picked up for another season, until March. So I have a long break, which is really nice.
Q: In the meantime, I see that gorgeous engagement ring on your finger. Are you going to get married soon?
Sackhoff: (She laughs.) I don’t know. We’ve been together for so long that we’ve outlasted a lot of our married friends. Some of them are still together but after eight years with a person, you’re not going anywhere. We’d hate to miss out on a work-related opportunity because of a technicality. He’s always had a busy career and it’s particularly busy right now as is mine. Right now, we’re just thankful to be able to get in the same room with each other every two weeks.
Q: Do you want a big church wedding?
Sackhoff: I did when I was younger, and then I grew up.
Q: David Twohy says he’s planning two more “Riddick” films. Would you return for more?
Sackhoff: Of course I would. Vin said today, jokingly, there’s going to be a bunch of Dahls running around. That’s a bit of a strong statement but I don’t think it would be impossible that she would be in the next movie or movies. I’m a huge fan of the series and a huge fan of Vin’s. This movie is amazing. I’d be crazy to say no.